Cyprus // Lemesos and around //

Ancient Amathus

Nine kilometres or so east of Lemesos centre and clearly visible right next to the B1 coast road, Ancient Amathus (Amathous) is of enormous significance in the history of Cyprus, with origins that can be traced back over three thousand years. The city was probably first established by Greek islanders fleeing from the eastward spread of the Dorian invasion around 1000 BC, though myth has it that a pregnant Ariadne, eloping with Theseus from Minoan Crete, died in childbirth at Amathus and was buried nearby. By around 800 BC the city had been settled and developed by the Phoenicians, and a new harbour built. During this time temples to Aphrodite and Hercules were established (Amathus was one of Hercules’s sons). During the Roman occupation it became one of four prosperous regional capitals, but subsequently suffered Arab raids in the seventh century AD, and attack by Richard the Lionheart in 1191. It became largely forgotten until it was identified in the late nineteenth century by British archeologists A.H. Smith and J.L. Myers, and excavated from the 1970s on by the French School of Athens.

Today the broad areas of ancient Amathus can, with effort, be discerned, with the open agora, or market place backed by the acropolis hill behind. The outline of houses can be seen, together with sections of wall, the rills and pipes of a water distribution system, a temple and several later Byzantine basilicas. The remains of the famous harbour cannot be seen, since they now lie underwater immediately off the beach. Many of the finds from the site can be seen in Lemesos’s Archeological Museum and Nicosia’s Cyprus Museum; others have been plundered during Cyprus’s periods of occupation – a two-metre-high, fourteen-tonne stone jar is now in the Louvre in Paris, for example.

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